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It's Surf Life-Saving Time Again

In case you hadn't noticed, surf-lifesaving luminaries are out there again rattling their offering boxes for more funding. This is a perennial appeal that strikes almost exactly around Labour Day each year, and the story is basically the same each time - increased patrolling, costs, and decreasing volunteers meaning that more professionals need to be employed in order to bring safety to our increasingly used beaches. 

Because local government, and councils with popular beaches are generally targeted, this is of particular interest to councils such as ours. An attempt was made last year to overcome some of the angst that accompanies this by setting up a regional authority to levy councils and hand out grants based on established criteria to the various agencies that provide protection services, including surf-lifesaving. But this does not preclude further direct approaches being made it seems, and as reported in the previous post on the 31 October Council meeting. 

I am as aware as anyone else as to the excellent services provided by these people at all of our major beaches, but the total reluctance of Central Government - including its latest iteration, to adequately fund these services is simply another example of the manner in which local government has been left to pick up the tab for the balance of funding required for all manner of services. In the case of surf life-saving - all their requirements beyond sponsorship and donations. 

In addition, the SLSA is very adept at issuing "grim warnings" as in today's HH  and claiming a special need for funding "to save lives" - always an emotive claim when all else fails, but the overall tenure of the story completely overlooks the invidious situation in which councils such as ours are placed when it comes to funding these services.

It appears, according to Surf Life-Saviong's own statistics that use of our beaches, and consequent rescues, is increasing exponentially - Hot Water, and Whangamata in particular, while our rate-payer base remains virtually static. So from whence do all these additional sun-seekers come? - tourists of course, enthusiastically encouraged by a Government concerned about potentially decreased returns from other sources, and possibly additional city folk drawn to the sea with climate change lengthening the hours of available entertainment. 

Whatever the case, it is utterly foolish and unreasonable for rate-payers to annually come under pressure through their elected members to fund more and more surf life-saving activity. Perhaps it should also be pointed out that there appears to be little governance oversight of the operation of clubs that are funded in this manner to ensure that the services being provided are either adequate, or necessary. The clubs make a great play on the need to increase 'professional' services at considerable additional cost because of the drop-off in volunteer interest - this needs substantial oversight, of which there is little evidence. 

In the case of Whangamata, a hugely valuable block of land is provided to the club by the Council for what is virtually a 'pepper-corn' ($350) rental, and yet it operates a substantial number of bars, food, entertainment and pokie facilities that should provide profits more than adequate to meet any requirements of the surf life-saving fraternity - but you can bet that the hand is out for more local government funding just as in the case with all the others. 

It is high time that the additional funding required was met from other sources other than over-burdened rate-payers, the great majority of whom have no interest in surfing, let alone putting themselves in the position of needing the services of surf life-savers. 




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Reader Comments (2)

Could you please explain what is meant by:

"and possibly additional city folk drawn to the sea with climate change lengthening the hours of available entertainment."

I certainly agree that more oversight of some of thes operations would be advisable.

November 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCoromandel 49

Possibly bad wording - I meant to indicate that climate change leading to longer hours of higher temperatures encouraging more beach visits. On the other hand, I think that most readers would have understood what I was getting at.

November 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBill

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